FINA World Championships, Open Water: Petar Stoychev, Ana Marcela Cunha Win Controversy-Marred 25K Races

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SHANGHAI, China, July 22. IN what became a battle against atrophy as the temperature hit the recommended maximum ceiling of 31 degrees Celsius between 12K and 15K into the race, the FINA World Championships in the 25K proved to be mighty controversial.

Even before the event began, Belgium's Tom Vangeneugden, Egypt's Islam Mohsen, USA's Alex Meyer, Belgium's Brian Ryckeman, Egypt's Mazen Mohamed Aziz and Germany's Thomas Lurz for the men; The Netherlands' Linsy Heister and USA's Haley Anderson for the women elected to withdraw from their respective races.

With Heister and Meyer not competing, FINA lost the defending champion in both the men's and women's races before the competition even started.

Throughout the men's race, 10 more swimmers did not finish the race including an open water veteran like Italy's Valerio Cleri. For the women, four more swimmers did not finish the course including USA's Claire Thompson. Thompson ignored USA Swimming's suggestion that the U.S. not participate in the event, and the team had to let her race due to the Amateur Sports Act.

In the end, Bulgaria's Petar Stoychev won the men's 25K with a 5:10:39.8 for his first world title. Stoychev has won six world medals previously, but never won a world title. Russia's Vladimir Dyatchin, originally reported to have pulled out of the race, was listed as winning silver with a 5:11:15.6. Hungary's Csaba Gercsak took bronze with a 5:11:18.6.

Brazil's Ana Marcela Cunha took the world title in the women's race with a 5:29:22.9, while Germany's Angela Maurer finished with silver in 5:29:25.0. Italy's Alice Franco completed the podium with a third-place 5:29:30.8.

This all takes place against the backdrop of the death of Fran Crippen at the UAE stop of the FINA Open Water 10K World Cup less than a year ago in October 2010. Calls for rules to enhance athlete safety were met with a slew of recommendations from two separate commissions (FINA, USA Swimming), which included a recommended maximum temperature of 31 degrees Celsius. Again, these recommendations have yet to be codified into the rule books.